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Children's Books which Teach Empathy

Updated on September 16, 2010

The best way to teach children attitudes is through books

 In an ever-changing world, we want to prepare our children for the challenges that lie ahead.  But how do we do that?  How can we get them to listen to us?  The trick is to do it through reading.  Either by you reading to them, or presenting them with books that have the message you want to get across.  Now that might seem quite difficult.  How do you know which books to choose?  If you've ever walked into a book store, you will have seen a huge selection of books with brightly colored covers, just how do you know which ones to pick?  There are so many books out there, many of them are just for entertainment and don't have much of an underlying message.  You can ask the book shop assistant for advice, but chances are, they wouldn't really know what to say to you.  I have decided to make it easy for you.  I have created an A-Store on Amazon that has children's books in different categories.  The categories are based on the TWELVE ATTITUDES identified by the International Baccalaureate's Primary Year's Programme (PYP), as critical to develop in children if we want to make the world a better place in the future.  The twelve attitudes are:  empathy, tolerance, respect, curiosity, integrity, enthusiasm, confidence, creativity, cooperation, independence, appreciation and commitment.

Empathy is a good attitude to develop in your child.   Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s place.  Empathy is about gaining an understanding of others.  Empathy is about knowing what someone feels like in a difficult situation.  Empathy is walking in someone else's shoes.  Imagine trying to explain empathy to a young child.  You can't.  But if you share a story with them, where the focus is empathy, then you can help them to understand what it means.

Give a child a book for Christmas

 Here is a sample of some of the books in my A-Store on Amazon.  With Christmas rapidly approaching, now is the time to look out for good books to give as gifts.

Masai and I   by Virginia Kroll,  illustrated by Nancy Carpenter   A young girl from the city imagines how different her life would be if she were a Masai living on the East African plains.  On each double page spread of this picture book, the illustration blends and links the two ways of life.  The fact that the girl and her family are black and that she is exploring her feelings of kinship with the Masai gives an extra dimension to the story.                        (6 - 10 years) 


Pumpkin Soup by Cooper

 A delightful story about Cat, Squirrel and Duck and the problems caused when Duck decides he will stir the pumpkin soup instead of Squirrel.  It takes a while but gradually everything is worked and cooperation reigns again.

You and Me, Murrawee by Kerri Hashmi illustrated by Felicity Marshall

A beautifully illustrated picture book which shows a young white girl camping on the banks of the River Murray with her family and through her eyes the life of a young Aboriginal girl Murrawee two hundred of years earlier, before the white settlers came.

Benny and Omar by Eoin Colfer

Benny is devastated when he has to leave Ireland and his hurling friends and go and live in Tunisia.  He is a rebel and finds the unthreatening friendly atmosphere of the international school very strange and feels more at ease with a young homeless Tunisian boy who is forced to live life on the edge.  Colfer succeeds in giving a  believable, unsentimental portrayal  of poverty and homelessness.      (10 – 15 years)

Bill’s New Frock by Anne Fine

One morning Bill Simpson wakes up and finds out that he is a girl and has to go to school dresses in a pink frock.  The day is like a nightmare for him but hilarious for the reader as Bill discovers that girls are often treated differently by teachers and other children.      (7 – 11 years)

Dreamwalker by Isobelle Carmody

created with illustrator Steven Woolman is a striking graphic novel.  It is a fantasy story which also looks at the way stories are created and the way author and illustrator work together.  It has a highly dramatic visual presentation.    (10 – 15 years)

The Giver by Lois Lowry

 This is a remarkable story about a futuristic time.  Jonas is given enormous responsibility and comes to realise that the premises of the world in which he lives are based false memories and deceit.   (9 – 13 years)

Storm Boy by Colin Thiele illustrated by Robert Ingpen

The well known story of the friendship between a boy and a pelican Mr Percival set in the beautiful but desolate coastal area of southern South Australia.   (6 – 12  years)

Be Quiet, Marina! by Kirsten Debear

 Two girls, one with cerebral palsy, the other with Down syndrome, learn to play together. An excellent story which shows that we can all get along despite differences and difficulties. Age: 4-8

Every child should get a book as a gift

 There is so much we can teach our children through books.  Especially, if you choose a book that has a message.  Empathy should not be a difficult attitude to develop in our children.  There are books which cover empathy for children in kindergarten right up to secondary.  There are books which deal with cancer, divorce, refugees, war victims, children with special needs, what it's like to get old.  You name it, there is a book that will deal with that subject.  The thing is, is that to get the message across, you need to read the book as well, so that you can discuss it with your child.  Reading could be a share-time in your family.  You need to talk about the book, how do you think so and so felt? 

If we encourage our children to develop empathy for others, we can create a world where everybody fits in and is accepted regardless of what they look like or where they come from.  Maybe, we can even stamp out bullying in our schools.


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    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

      Treathyl FOX 

      5 years ago from Austin, Texas

      @cindyvine - Totally agree. They need a backup plan for when they can't access their home computers, hand held video games, etc. or when the lights go out and I let them hold the flashlight. :) Of a truth most of my children enjoy reading. I didn't have to twist their arms. But you are right on!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      5 years ago from Cape Town

      The more we can encourage our children to books and reading, the better!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      What a great list. I will have to check out the age-appropriate books for my kids. I'm always on the hunt for learning activities for them. Thanks for sharing these books!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I agree that reading to children and encouraging them to continue reading is a goal that every parent should have. A love of reading adds so much to our lives that nothing else can truly replicate. It sounds like each of the books you have featured here would be good ones. Up and useful votes!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      7 years ago from Cape Town

      Heidi I agree with you totally! Children these days miss out on so many good things we took for granted growing up!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I think too, that with children spending so much time with all these gadgets, games and phones, they are losing their ability to function with personal relationships/friendships, etc. There is so much less interaction with a fellow being. Children are also spending way too little time out in nature. I love the good old days!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      princessa, she'll love Dreamwalker!

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      8 years ago from France

      What a great idea to create an A-Store on Amazon with children's books in different categories based on attitudes to develop in children. I'll go and have a look I think my girl would like the Dreamwalker by Isobelle Carmody, as she likes to create stories herself.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      2patricias, your friend is lucky to have you buy her kids books and read to them. Did you go to my A store on Amazon? I have an even more comprehensive list of kids books there which teach some other great attitudes as well. The link for it is in my hub.

    • 2patricias profile image


      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is an interesting list, and I shall come back to it. I have a friend with 2 children. I buy them books, but if they take them home they never get read, because they spend all their time there watching TV or playing video games. So I keep the books at my house; they love it when I sit and read to them. Parents who do not read to their children are missing out (so are their kids).

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      KK Gals, did o look at my A-Store, as in there I have put books for all the attitudes we want kids to get as well. Attitudes such as tolerance, confidence, independence, creativity...

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      What a wonderful list of books. It's a great idea to teach empathy though reading books. Rated up, useful and bookmarked. I must buy some of these books for my classroom.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Have some good titles there, I zettl!

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      8 years ago from The Great Northwest

      no I haven't but will do that. Thanks.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Izettl, I just wish more parents would but their kids books instead of playstation games! Did you check out my A-store for the other great titles I found?

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      8 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Great list. I can't believe I haven't heard of these books. I love children's books, but I think they are second to example. I believe my love for books and writing kept me busy and out of trouble and if they had an additional lesson in them, even better. But what also helps is parents setting good examples. I learned empathy from having pets, for example, but not to discount the enormous effect books have on children. One of the best books I read while in grade school was "Daphne's Book"- wonderful lessons in it, but I don't remember the author.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Rebecca, did you check out my Amazon A Store for more books which teach the other attitudes we want our kids to have?

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      8 years ago from Canada

      wow what a great hub, this is not only a great way to teach kids emapthy but teaches them that you love them, good job well done!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Hey Tony, no worries. It'll be great if you can link it. I want to do a hub on teaching kids about tolerance as well. We can definitely help them understand these valued attitudes through books.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      As an avid and voracious reader myself I think that reading books is the best legacy to leave our children. I have always surrounded myself with books and so my children also love reading (and writing, incidently!).

      I am also a great believer in empathy as possibly the most important value and attitude we can have, possibly the one thing that can save us as people.

      So I'm going to link this Hub to my two on empathy - I hope you don't mind!

      Love and peace


    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Ray. As the mother of three children who all experienced bullying in some way, I really hope that parents will instill key values in their kids.

    • aware profile image


      8 years ago from West Palm Beach Florida.

      I really like this hub. With bullying out of control in schools. And you tube videos of gangs of kids beating on the few. Cheering it ,filming it, as if it were the Roman Colosseum . Is the direct result of not teaching and instilling key values to our youth. Its great to see people like you trying to correct this. good job.


    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Embee I'm hoping that parents, teachers, family will be able to use that A Store as a resource and will provide the children with books that will make them think and help develop their character.

    • embee77 profile image


      8 years ago

      You have hit on two of my greatest interests: children's literature and character development. Super job of collecting titles. Very encouraging to parents, and you make it so easy. I would add that adult models are an excellent way to teach values. Adults reading to children teaches many different things, especially with the books you cite. There is lots of research now on girl bullying, complete with intervention programs, games, etc. If we catch them at a young age, then maybe we'll end up with more adults who treat each other with courtesy and respect. We can dream.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      2besure, and we can teach them this through books.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Great points. It is important to teach children to treat others as they want to be treated and to love nature and treat animals with respect.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Shaz, it took a whole day to make that A store! Manually added all the books. Time consuming but worth it as I got in all the books I wanted.

      Wendy, they are good books and highly recommended.

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 

      8 years ago from Maryland

      These are terrific books for kids. Thank you.

    • shazwellyn profile image


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Wow - what a great way to demonstrate some wonderful books especially suited to positive forms of education for children. People will really benefit by taking a look at your astores. Well done Cindy! Soo professional!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Drbj, I agree, life is so busy these days its about making the time to read.

      Daliah, you are right, children do need to see their parents read. You can learn so much from books.

      Hello, Hello, thanks!

      Christoph, telly has become a convenient babysitter. Families should turn the telly off and have reading time for the whole family.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      8 years ago from St. Louis

      Books are good for children, and I fear they are being exposed to them less and less (though I could be wrong.) Too many parents just parking their kids in front of the telly.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Congratulation, These are great books you have chosen.

    • Daliah Lego profile image

      Daliah Lego 

      8 years ago from Kazakhstan (where Borat came from. LOL)

      Thank you for a nice list. I myself love to read children books. Life looks better when you read these books. One of my own tricks to deal with blue times is to read children books.

      And for sure, parents should read to their children, and even more important- children must see that their parents read.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Cindy. I agree wholeheartedly with your premise - the importance of books for children. But I would go even further than Pamela and say, Not enough parents read!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      That's the thing Pam. Not enough parents read to their kids these days!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I think TV and all the computer type gadgets keep children from reading as much as we did when I was young. I believe a parent should start reading to their child when they are very young and try to form a habit where the child will desire to read as they grow. Your book selection looks great.


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